Trade unions are about how we organise collective resistance, about solidarity and unity. Whenever we are divided, we are weaker, and when we are weak those in power stay there unchallenged running a system that goes unchallenged. Racism runs through every aspect of society and needs to be challenged everywhere.
As members of a trade union though, we can come together in our workplaces to discuss and organise how we can fight racism. Sometimes this is about how policies are systematically used in a disproportionate way, sometimes like during the protests after the murder of George Floyd, it’s about taking action like the Teamster union members who refused to take protesters to the police station in their buses despite police orders. At the meeting we’ll hear from speakers who have been organising against racism and racist events, and will have chance to discuss what we can do too.
So please do try to come along to the Camden UNISON meeting.
London Borough of Camden
This week we saw the legacy of Trump’s time as US President. From the Make America Great Again (MAGA) campaign to the racist rhetoric and policies, he has mobilised a dangerous far right movement and dramatically polarised US society.
Thousands of his supporters marched in Washington and then some entered the Capitol building, waving the pro-slavery Confederate flag. Trump had prepared for this day – it’s the result of him telling the ‘Proud Boys’ to stand by, of saying there were ‘good people’ on both sides when Heather Heyer was killed in Charlottesville for protesting against white supremacists, of his systematic scapegoating of migrants, Black people, Muslims and Latinx.
This encouraged the racists, they had one of their own in the White House who spent most of last year denouncing the Black Lives Matter movement and defending the killer of two Black Lives Matter protestors in September.
Since the November election, Trump repeatedly denied losing, not just as an attempt to challenge the result in the Supreme Court, but also as a way to mobilise his supporters – if it wasn’t for those cheating liberals, he’d still be in the White House was his claim.
So on December 20 Trump tweeted, “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election, Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”
Trump’s supporters had very different treatment at the hands of the police and National Guard than the Black Lives Matter protestors last year. This week, according to the Washington Post, “In a city on high alert, in a building with its own 2000-officer police department, people forced their way in with nothing more than flagpoles, riot shields and shoves.” Since then, pictures have surfaces of the police inside the building taking selfies with them. Compare this to the huge mobilisation of the National Guard up the steps of the Capitol building when people marched against the murder of George Floyd.
Unfortunately, the opposition to any campaign by Trump and his supporters is unlikely to come from Democratic politicians – they have had four years to build a movement against his racism and undemocratic politics and given very little challenge. It’s also worth remembering that even here, all the politicians who this week have condemned Trump have previously been happy to meet with him, to invite him over for state visits and some, like Priti Patel, want to bring in similar policies. When Jeremy Corbyn refused to dine with Trump and instead joined the massive protests in London against his state visit, other politicians and all the press at the time criticised him for not showing ‘respect’ to Trump.
The best way for us to counter Trump, his racist policies and his supporters including those over here is to continue to mobilise for Black Lives Matter, to continue to fight for funding our NHS including proper pay for health workers, and against the austerity that is used to divide us.
Camden UNISON is proud to have signed up to the Camden Disability Network’s Charter, and some of our members are actively helping to co-ordinate the Network. Here Asif outlines the aims and plans of the Network and gives details of how you can get in touch and involved.
Camden Disability Network Mission Statement
Disabled staff across the organisation have recently come together to re-establish Camden Disability Network, and to support the organisation in ensuring it is inclusive of everyone’s needs, fostering a working environment that is equal for all.
“The network aims to ensure that all staff feel able to declare their disabilities and become positive role models for their disabled colleagues. Through the network we want to empower disabled staff, celebrate their talents and help them to achieve their hopes for the future.”
Camden Disability Network, November 2020
Camden Disability Network offers support for disabled staff across Camden Council. This is a safe space to express views or concerns, a platform for everyone’s voice to be heard and to influence decisions across the organisation. We will work together to ensure equal participation for all. We are committed to making the CDN a truly inclusive, equal and respectful place for disabled staff.
Camden Disability Network’s vision
We want Camden to be an organisation where staff members are not identified by their disability, but are seen as people
We want to be able see the talents and potential of all staff, regardless of their disability, and ensure that Camden provide reasonable adjustments when needed
We want all Camden Council workplaces and public spaces, as well as programs and services, to be accessible
We want to make our workplace somewhere where people with disabilities can be, and want to be, their best selves
In the immediate term we want to provide internal support to staff. In the long term we want to instigate projects to help engage the wider community of Camden and recognise the needs, interests and concerns of disabled residents.
How Camden Disability Network will help Camden to achieve this vision:
Working with HR to review HR policies, and ensure disabled staff are protected, according to the Equality Act 2010 and relevant case law
Encouraging open and honest conversations between all parts of Camden and other organisations
Increasing disability awareness
Working closely with the Rainbow Group, Camden Black Worker’s Group, and other Employee Support Groups, and Trade Unions
Promoting Disability History Month to raise awareness of disabled staff for all staff
Producing the Disability Charter
Acting as a disability and change champion
The Network’s core beliefs
Disabilities are a natural part of life. Anyone can acquire a disability at any time
Many of the difficulties faced by disabled people are a result of attitudes and environments, and not the disability itself
Disabilities positively affect and enhance the diversity of our community
The term ‘disability’ is not to be viewed as something negative, a taboo, or something which makes an individual in any well less than others
Everyone should have the opportunity to express their strengths, abilities, and talents:
Discussing disabilities is to be encouraged in order to help people
Data about disabilities is treated with confidence at all times
Summary of what Camden Disability Network has achieved so far:
Camden Disability Network aims to welcome disabled staff, colleagues who work with disabled staff or residents or communities.
Camden Disability Network Working Group aims for Executive Board overview of disability issues will cover review policies, consultation, communication, working with senior management, etc
Set up Camden Disability Network Yammer Group – If you are interested, you can join Camden Disability Network Yammer to contribute your disability, resources, ideas, stories, etc.
Heads of Services to advise Team Managers to promote the Camden Disability Network through to their members of staff
Disability History Month – 18th November 18th December 2020
Camden Disability Network is launched new Logo and email banner signature
Jenny Rowlands, Chief Executive’s statement of support for Disability History Month and Disability Network via Essentials
Promote staff personal stories i.e. if staff have a role model or anyone who has inspired them internally or externally. We are keen to promote awareness of disabled staff internally and externally through Essentials, Yammer and Twitter
Disability History Month conversation video will be on Essentials and Yammer on 18th November 2020.
Promoting training sessions: Emma Watson and Emma Chimonidou, Executive Member of Disability Network Working Group, will be running 3 x dyspraxia sessions on 19th, 24th November and 1st and 17th December 2020 during Disability History Month.
Camden Disability Network delighted to be working in partnership with Islington Disabled Staff Forum as they share the following lunch time drop in training sessions to all Camden and Islington staff.
Camden Disability Network is proud to announce that Camden Council will provide a purple light at 5PS offices on Thursday 3rd December 2020 to celebrate International Day for Disabled People and recognise disabled staff’s great achievements and value their contribution to Camden. This will include signing the Camden Disability Network’s Disability Charter as well.
Camden Disability Network Charter will be signed by Jenny Rowlands, Chief Executive and Councillor Gould, Leader on Thursday 3rd December 2020 in conjunction with the celebration of the International Day for Disabled People.
Camden Council will seek a Disability Champion role that can be used to engage/ involve with disabled staff and to raise the profile of Camden Council.
Working partnership with Islington Disabled Staff Forum
Recently we have met Islington Disabled Staff Forum to see how we can work in partnership, share information and network as it could be beneficial for our long term planning.
The last CBWG online meeting took place on Thursday 24th September @ 3pm, at which Dawn Butler MP, Former Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities was the Special Guest speaker. The theme of the event was “Why and how Black Lives Matter is important to me”. Information on the meeting can be seen on Essentials here:
SOCIAL media has had reports of members and supporters of Britain First, a far right organisation founded by former BNP members, going to a hotel in Camden where homeless people are now being accommodated to keep them safe from coronavirus and try to set them on the road to permanent housing.
They turned up at the hotel with the mistaken belief that it was being used to house asylum seekers.
As a trade union Camden Unison has long campaigned against fascism and racism.
The recent Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted racism in society and we fully support that movement, campaigning for an end to institutional racism as well as challenging racist activities.
Organisations like Britain First try to capitalise on the scapegoating climate created by politicians like Boris Johnson and Donald Trump.
These politicians spend their time trying to persuade us to blame Black or Muslim people for the problems in society from unemployment to homelessness rather than blaming them, the real creators of austerity.
Had the hotel housed asylum seekers and refugees, our response would be that they are welcome here.
People do not flee their homes, putting their lives at risk in the hands of traffickers, live in unsanitary conditions in camps or try to cross seas on flimsy boats unless they are desperate and need a chance to start a new life.
Seeking asylum is not illegal. The rich are able to move their millions around the globe so that they can make even more money, often at the expense of those seeking asylum, and live in tax havens to avoid contributing to the National Health Service or our schools.
Yet asylum seekers and refugees when given the opportunity are often the people who keep those valued parts of society afloat – where would our NHS be today without the contribution of migrant workers?
At a time when fascist organisations are trying to grow on the back of both the pandemic and the prospect of one of the deepest recessions in our lifetime, it’s important that we say asylum seekers and refugees are welcome here. Britain First and their like are not.
LIZ WHEATLEY Branch Secretary PHOEBE WATKINS Branch Chair and the following Camden UNISON Branch Officers: KATHY ANIFOWOSE ISRA FEISAL PHIL LEWIS CLAIRE MARRIOTT CLAUDIO MUNZI ADEJARE OYEWOLE HUGO PIERRE VINOTHAN SANGARAPILLAI JACQUI WALLACE
The following is Camden Black Workers Group Statement on Black Lives Matter reproduced from the Camden Black Workers Group page of this website.
The last few months have been very difficult for Black staff and Black people all around the world including ourselves. At Camden Black Workers Group like yourselves, we have gone through the motions of anxiety and fear from being four times as likely to die from Covid-19, to disappointment in Government in not taking adequate steps to protect Black communities, to sheer horror and triggered memories and trauma as a result of George Floyd’s murder in the USA.
All these events are rooted in the simple fact of systemic racism and injustice which is not only prevalent in America, but also here in the UK and all over the world. Our exec members are not new to this fact hence why we were set up and continue to work with the Chief Executive Jenny Rowlands, and the Leader of the Council, Cllr Georgia Gould to represent the voices of Black staff in the organisation as well as working with UNISON on wider campaigns to change the system for the better. We stand with all the families around the world who have lost loved ones because of a racist system and we say Rest in Power to all the Black lives lost.
Recent events have been hard hitting not only physically in terms of the pressures of having to stay at home and / or work on the frontline, but also mentally with the psychological effects of trauma and this ‘new normal’ that we are all coming to terms with. Firstly we’d like to say Black Lives have ALWAYS Mattered, and our work is to continue to make this true for all. Secondly, we share your frustrations in being exhausted in having to re-educate counterparts at this time and forever being reminded of the racism and injustices we face as a race. We also understand that BAME is not a homogenous group and different ethnic groups face different pressures, and have a diverse range of needs. This is what we will continue to communicate to our leadership and ensure that HR recognises this.
Some of the ways in which we are working to make the organisation a place of inclusion where Black staff are treated fairly is through setting up a Resource Hub for all staff to tap into to learn more about systemic racism, the Black British experience, and how to be better allies and actively Anti-Racist. So please do send in your recommendations for this and anything you’ve come across that would be useful. We want to make sure that we are adequately representing the voice of our Black staff so we are holding an online General Meeting on Thursday 25th June at 3pm which will be a safe space for Black staff to tell their stories, express their thoughts, feelings and suggestions on how we can make real change in the organisation and ensure Black staff voices are heard. This will also be a chance for you to hear what we have done so far and have a say in what we communicate to the leadership going forward. You can join it via this link if you are on the Camden IT system: Join Microsoft Teams Meeting
We are committed to ensuring the organisation is progressive and Black staff are protected and supported in their work at Camden. We recognise that this is the time to really start changing things and for it not just to be a trending moment but a catalyst for long term and sustainable change so that our children can grow up in a BETTER future.
We encourage you to tap into well-being resources such as the Employee Assistance Programme and Black Minds Matter are also having free mental health sessions. We recognise the importance of staying informed but it is just as important to take care of you and take breaks from negative media and let your manager know if you need time off or someone to speak to.
Lastly, HAPPY WINDRUSH DAY, we know that Black people have made significant contributions here in the UK from BEFORE the Windrush Generation and to this present day. Without Black people there would be no workforce! Thank you for being patient with us and we look forward to working with you all to Champion the voices of our Black staff.
March 21 is UN Anti Racism Day and there are marches, rallies and events taking place around the world. In the last week, we have seen Johnson’s government introduce new immigration rules, and he himself has an appalling record on making racist statements. Camden UNISON is supporting this march and we will be going with the banner, so do come along and march with us. We will be assembling from 12 noon in Portland Place (outside the BBC building).
I attended UNISON Disabled Member’s Conference as a representative for Camden Unison, which took place at Brighton Conference Centre on Saturday 2nd-Sunday 3rd November 2019.
It was well-attended with over 250 delegates, the majority have some form of disability. The conference was led by Josie Bird, Unison President and Christina McAnea, Assistant General Secretary for Bargaining, Negotiating and Equalities. It was also pleasing to a good diversity of people as Chairs of each sessions.
During the conferences, there was some workshops, I attended an interesting workshop: Negotiating Reasonable Adjustment policies and Passport which was very popular and attended by large number of delegates.
We talked about deaf and hard of hearing employees and the challenges they faces with their employers eg: noises in work place, their rights to reasonable adjustment under Equality Act e.g: request for quieter room/ environment to meet their individual needs. This was fully supported by UNISON.
The conference reminded the delegates about the Equality Act 2010 which says that employers must provide reasonable adjustment to disabled job applicants/ workers and former employees who face a substantial disadvantage in comparison to someone who is not disabled. If employers do not provide reasonable adjustments where they have a duty to do so, then they may face Employment Tribunal claims.
Unison highlighted the importance for all delegates and employers to be aware of ‘Disability passports in the workplace’, which encourage the introduction and ensure continuous support of reasonable adjustment in a form of disability passport. Essentially, a disability passport provide a framework for discussion with a manager and disabled employee regarding the support required for that disabled employee.
The workshop also discussed ‘What is Social Model of Disability’ and delegates urge all employers not to use Medical Model when considering the employee’s needs. It is really crucial to encourage employers especially managers and HR to use the Social Model of Disability, looking at environmental/attitudinal barriers that ‘disable’ the employee that needs removing and adopt a ‘can do’ positive attitude as key message, rather than seeing the person’s disability as the problem.
One of the topic discussed during the conference was ‘Tackling the Disability Pay Gap’ which introduce a mandatory monitoring and reporting for the Employers, on the disability pay in the same way as Gender and BAME (currently being monitored).
Other areas discussed were:
•Awareness of Access to Work – calling Government to expand the Access to Work scheme to include young, black, deaf and disabled people in voluntary placements, where these offer opportunity for paid work and do not replace permanent staff. By extending the ATW scheme to voluntary placement (currently only on those on internships), this would enable more people to gain valuable work experiences and skills as a pathway to paid employment. Currently, lots of disabled people want to work but unable to access to voluntary placement opportunity without appropriate ATW support in place and many employers were reluctant to offer voluntary placement to disabled people without ATW, due to additional cost.
•Disability Confident Scheme campaign for all public sector employers to participate in the national accredited Disability Confident Scheme encouraging them to demonstrate a genuine commitment include employment, progression and management of disabled workers that would allow organisations to evidence they are closing the disability gap.
•PIP assessment support – to create guidance materials on the process for PIP assessments and the support channels that can be used during this process and work with the national office branch welfare officers to be trained on PIP assessments to provide support to members.
•Access to Mental Health Services for Deaf People – lobby the Department o Health and NHS to provided improved mental health services for Deaf people including increasing the provision of one to one counselling directly through BSL, without the need for an interpreter.
During Day 2 of the conference (Sunday 3rd November 2019), I stood on the platform during UNISON Conference with a great applause.
If you want more information about how Camden UNISON can support or represent members with disabilities and campaign for equality, contact Jare Oyewole or Asif Iqbal or email email@example.com
Personal views of members expressed on this website are not necessarily the views of Camden UNISON, but the branch will defend the right of members to express those views.
Read our comment guidelines here